...my child sold your honor student the answers to the test...

Friday, July 19, 2013


Today is Xavier's first big test in middle school, and I am more nervous than he is. It's not that I don't think he is ready for it. It's a science test on all that he has learned in the past two weeks, and we worked very hard to prepare him. Yesterday, I made a score of flash cards and we prepped for hours, until I felt confident that he was confident. Soren even helped, by offering himself as a prop to show the sequence of "The Steps of the Scientific Method". While I lay down on the floor, Soren jumped on my back giggling and the three of us practiced the order:

"I have a problem (#1 Purpose): Soren is on my back, and I want him off.
For (#2 Research) I have the floor I am lying on.
My (#3 Hypothesis) is that if I roll to the side, he will fall off.
I shall now proceed (#4 Procedure) to roll...(rolls and Soren laughing hysterically, falls off.)
The (#5 Results) are that Soren is now on the floor and not on my back.
My (#6 Conclusion) is that if I roll to the side, Soren will fall off.
However, it is important to (#7 Repeat the Process) to ensure that I have a lot of data."

We did this over and over again, until both Soren and I felt dizzy, we were all laughing, and it was pounded into Xavier's head.

My concern is not that Xavier does not know the content that he will be tested on. It's actually more because of how the grading works in his school. When I was in high school, it was very straight forward in grades:

100 - 90 = A
89 - 80 = B
79 - 70 = C
69 - 60 = D
59 and lower = F

The all went by ten points. I don't know if the new grading style I am seeing is nation wide, or just our own little area, but the grading is tougher. Instead of the ten point system, it's a six point system:

A = 94-100
B = 85-93
C = 77-84
D = 70-76
F = 70 and lower

Last week, Xavier had a quiz. Unfortunately he mixed two answers up and his score was an 84. But because of the system, it was graded as a C. As someone who grew up with thinking that an 84 was a solid B, it was disconcerting to see it as a C. If I were a kid, I would have been very happy with an 84. And as a mom, I think an 84 is great! I have always firmly believed, and tell my kids non stop, that I don't care what grade they get in school so long as I know that they studied and tried their hardest. So when I saw the number grade next to the letter grade for his quiz, I told him that I thought an 84 was great and I was proud of him.

Here is where I get nervous though. Middle school was tough enough to get through when I was under the ten point system. So to be on a six point system in middle school when kids are working on tougher material gives those kids less of a chance to feel that they are doing ok. There are a lot of other parents out there who look at the letter grade and that is all that matters to them. Putting more pressure on a kid who is already in a tough transition academically, socially, and hormonally seems counter productive to creating a person who feels both invested in their school as well as confident enough to continue working hard to attain their goals.

Xavier is a smart cookie. He is in AG classes. And he knows that I don't care if he bombs a test, or gets a C on his report card. But I worry that HE will start to feel the pressure when comparing to other kids if he does not get an 85 or higher on every test. And I don't want that for him. I want him knowing deep down in his heart of hearts, that really, a letter does not represent his intelligence.

While I worry silently, I will continue to do my best to instill this in my son, and my other sons when they too, start middle school. It's all that I can do as a mom: to keep them on track, help them study, and be their biggest cheerleader when I know that they have honestly done the best that they can do. And I hope that this will be enough to ensure that they are willing to do the work, and are confident in themselves as they continue their education as well as life in general.

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